Today, I will show you how to draw a beautiful colorful brilliant background for a king fisher. If you’re interested in drawing this king fisher portrait, it’s a lesson inside my membership, Animal Art Club. In Animal Art Club, I teach my students how to draw realistic animal portraits with pastel. I invite you to join the Animal Art Club waitlist to be informed first when the doors will open again. And now, let’s start with the background for the king fisher.

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Getting Started with the Background

We have this portrait of the king fisher, and I will do a background now. So let’s add a background. We’ll do it with some soft pastel sticks if you have one, or use some other pastels you have. You can use pan pastels if you have one, or you can use soft pastel like Rembrandt or Unison color, or I have here a cheaper version too, these are called Jaxell. So they have a very good price-performance ratio. Or you can use hard pastels of Faber Castell, or use if you don’t have soft pastels or something like that, if you only have pencils at the moment, then do the background with pencils. You can really try something out and practice and experiment a little bit here.

Choosing and Applying Colors

I don’t give you exactly colors. I would encourage you to choose colors by yourself and play a bit around. So, I will have an orientation on the reference photo. You can also do something completely different, that’s no problem. So, I will go with that to add here some orange pinks on top, then in the middle yellows, then greens, and brighten them up a bit with white or something like that.

Enhancing the Background

Using Schmincke’s very soft white, I blend directly on the canvas to create smooth transitions, enhancing both depth and brightness. Near delicate areas like the bird’s beak, I switch to a cotton swab for more precise control to prevent overlapping the bird. This helps in mixing colors beautifully without harsh transitions.

Blending Techniques

I avoid using blending stamps for these smooth backgrounds because they tend to lift off too much pigment, creating unwanted marks. Instead, I find using my fingers or a cotton swab works best to smooth out the background, ensuring no harsh lines disrupt the visual flow.

Here’s and example:
Blending stamp will remove a lot of pigment

Drawing the Middle Part and Some Greens

For the middle section, I choose olive green from my pastels and apply a generous amount, quickly adding lots of pigment. It’s important to work carefully around the bird to ensure a clean blend that doesn’t overshadow the main subject.

Final Adjustments

As I add more layers of yellow and lighter apricot shades, I constantly blend these colors to ensure a seamless transition. Both pastel sticks and pencils are used to enrich the background, adjusting saturation and hue dynamically while checking the harmony between the background and the bird.


Creating such a background is about exploring and having fun with colors. It’s a free-form process that enhances the overall composition of your artwork. Play around with these techniques and find what best suits your style. Enjoy the process and share your colorful backgrounds with us!

*I won’t spray or use a fixative spray here for the finishing I would not recommend it

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